I am digging this weekend. On Friday we got a new mattress. For the first time in years I am not sleeping on something shaped like a hotdog bun. Yesterday I woke up after precisely 8 hours of sleep, totally refreshed, sans backache. Yes! The husband and I went for a sunny walk, and then he dropped me off at the salon for a haircut. My new hairdresser looked at the pictures I showed her and totally delivered on the texture and shape I wanted. Just as I was thinking that I’d finally gotten the kind of cut and service I was accustomed to getting in San Francisco, the woman at the front desk handed me my bill. $30? I was so astounded I tipped 50%.
Later we made plans to have a few people over for nachos & game night. I’d wanted to make gluten-free cupcakes for a few weeks now, so I fired up the standing mixer and got to it. As it was whirring away I had the thought, “I would way rather drive this mixer than any car.” The icing for the cupcakes was billed as ‘spreadable’ in my Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. But it turned out more like a glaze, running in drips down the sides of my surprisingly springy, light cupcakes. Not to be defeated, I put just a dollop on the top of each cupcake to keep the moisture in and stashed the rest of the icing in a bowl in the fridge. When it was time for dessert, I brought out the extra frosting and smiles popped up all around. Apparently, nothing makes up for runny icing like MORE runny icing.
Good friends, a game of Apples to Apples, good sleep, a decent haircut: all of these have added up to an impressively satisfying and relaxing foundation that carried into today.
Today has been spent getting up late, reading the New York Times, taking a leisurely walk, chatting briefly on the phone with some of my nearest and dearest, and menu planning for Kevin’s birthday celebration. If there is anything I enjoy, it is a good menu planning session. There have been 10 different cookbooks on the table, several serious discussions about minute variations of the original menu concept, internet research on cocktail recipes and even a brief tangential inquiry into how long it takes, exactly, to make Worcestershire sauce from scratch (not long, but it has to cure for 3 weeks). Now I am eating the dinner my husband made for me - white beans, with spinach & parsley cooked in bacon fat – while I make little happy food moves.
Before I wrap up, you may remember the part where I said nachos. There are probably a million different topping combinations to make mind-blowing nachos. But I want to share with you one of the most important things about making nachos: the foundation. You don’t just make nachos, you build them. So choose your chips wisely. They should be sturdy - at least medium thickness – and salted. To start your foundation, lightly coat a baking sheet in cooking spray. Spread a layer of chips on the pan. The chips should overlap a little so that toppings do not seep through and fuse to the pan in the oven. If you are having meat, distribute it on top of the chips fairly evenly. We use ground beef or turkey prepared as if for tacos with a spice packet, onion and tomato paste. The second structural element of your nachos is cheese. You simply have to have cheese. We use a shredded blend with cheddar and jack. Spread cheese thickly over the meat (if using). It needs to be thick enough to stick to the layer of chips that you will place on top of the cheese. Do not chintz out. Being generous with your cheese makes your meal go from nachos to NACHOS.
Now place that second layer of chips over the cheese. This time you don’t need to worry about them overlapping as much, and this layer can have a smaller circumference than the original layer of chips. You are building a mound, so it will be higher in the middle than the edges. Next do another layer of meat. After that, you get to improvise and add whatever other toppings you like. We add sliced black olives and pickled jalapenos. The last layer is another layer of cheese. This one is less for structural integrity and more for good looks and mouth-feel. But put enough cheese on there so that when it melts it has some substance to it and will stretch when you pull the chips apart.
Put your architecturally-sound nachos in a 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes. They are done when the chips around the edges begin to brown and the cheese on top begins to bubble and brown. The point of baking your nachos is to fuse the ingredients together, nothing more. Since the oven is so hot, keep a watchful eye on everything and check the pan at 7-8 minutes.
When you are satisfied with how the cheese has melted and fused everything together, pull the nachos out of the oven and serve with whatever appeals to you most. At our house we tend to just want a little Cholula sauce. But for company, we serve them with chopped scallions and sour cream as well. Whether you’re making a meal for one or feeding a crowd, building a good foundation ensures that you will enjoy the heck out of your NACHOS.
1 year ago